7 Elements of a Written Job Offer (Details and Terms)

Updated November 27, 2022

A written employment offer is a formal invitation to accept a job. It determines various conditions and responsibilities of your role if you accept it. Understanding the right conditions to accept in a written employment offer can help you choose which job offers to accept and which ones to decline. In this article, we define a written job offer, discuss why it's important, review its common features, and explore when to accept, negotiate, or decline a written employment contract.

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What's a written job offer?

A written job offer is a formal letter by an organization that invites a candidate for employment. It gives details such as the job description, management structure, salary, benefits, and other employment details. The job offer can also depend on the candidate completing additional steps, like a pre-employment drug test or a background check. If you accept the offer, sign it and return it as a formal acceptance of the job. You can make a counteroffer or decline if the offer includes information about the role or compensation package that isn't what you expected.

Why is a written offer of employment important?

A written employment contract is important for three main reasons:

1. Clarifies specific employment details

The primary aim of a written employment offer is to clarify specific job details. You learn about your responsibilities and salary, including a part-time or full-time job, among other details. It's also an opportunity to confirm verbal agreements on the job offer. For example, if you verbally agree on a salary of $65,000, make sure the written offer reflects the $65,000 you discussed.

2. Shows serious intent from the potential employer

A job offer becomes more formal when it's written and shows the employer's intent. It also helps avoid future disagreements and miscommunications about the job offer. An employment offer provides a paper trail that acts as evidence of employment details.

3. Works as a legal agreement

Once a company makes an offer, it's harder to withdraw because a paper trail could expose them to liability. For example, the company can be liable for discrimination if there's evidence that they've rescinded their offer based on your age, race, or gender. This can help ensure that once the company makes an offer, it's yours to accept or reject regardless of your demographic.

Elements of a written work offer

A well-written employment offer has the following elements:

Job title and description

A written work offer highlights the job title and gives other details about the job. It also lets you know who your supervisor is and the job responsibilities. Most employers state that the job responsibilities are subject to change. A written employment offer specifies your work schedule to know whether your position is part-time or full-time. It also specifies if the position is in-house, remote, or hybrid. A well-written work offer specifies break requirements, overtime pay policies, and the organization's timekeeping process. Assess the letter to know if the position is exempt or non-exempt from overtime pay.

Read more: Assessing a Job Offer

Important dates

A written work offer specifies important dates of your employment so you can prepare for them. The hiring manager may discuss the dates in the interview, but it's easy to lose track without a written reference. Examples of important dates in an employment offer include orientation, job start date, performance management, and evaluation periods. Companies that have evaluation periods so that they have a culture that thrives on feedback and improvement. A written employment offer also features the expiry date. You can refer to the expiry date to determine how long you have to make a decision.

Compensation benefits and terms

Compensation benefits and terms are important to determine the value of the work you do. It specifies your salary pay, holidays, and paid time off. Some companies offer equity and benefits as part of the compensation. A good job offer may feature health insurance, paid time off, retirement plans, life insurance, accidental death and dismemberment coverage, and short-term and long-term disability. The offer may not include all benefits, but make sure you're comfortable with them before you accept it. Your employer can communicate further details of the benefits package during orientation.

Company policies and culture

The company policies and culture section briefly introduce the work environment to the candidate. It also includes a statement to clarify that the employment is subject to company procedures and policies, which they can revise at their discretion. It can briefly highlight the company's mission or vision. Consider a job offer that shows excitement to have you as part of the team. A written work offer also includes the contact information for someone you can reach out to with questions.

Statement of at-will employment

Written employment offer includes a statement of at-will employment to avoid making it a contractual agreement. The employer may include attachments that strictly say that a written work offer is not a binding contract. A statement of at-will employment means that the candidates or employees can end the working relationship. Most job offers include the duration of the employment if the position is temporary. Employers also use it to avoid cases of retaliation, discrimination, promises of indefinite feature employment and promotions, limitations on terminations, or other special circumstances.

Relevant documents

An employment contract also features some documents relevant to the job. Most of the documents usually protect the employer in various ways, such as lawsuits or competition. A written work offer is usually contingent on providing or signing the relevant documents. Some common documents and clauses in a written employment offer include:

A nondisclosure or confidentiality agreement

A nondisclosure agreement states sensitive information that both parties keep private. Breaching a nondisclosure or confidentiality agreement can lead to lawsuits or losing your job. Some sensitive company information includes communications, product design, financial reports, or other internal items.

Noncompete document or clause

Noncompete document or close is an agreement between two parties where one does not compete with the other for a certain period. It can prevent you from working in the same industry as the employer in their employer's geographic region for some period. You can only seek alternative employment once the agreement lapses.

Arbitration clause

An arbitration clause is an agreement between an employer and employee to settle disputes through a third party rather than a lawsuit. It's important to be aware of such agreements in your written work offer. Arbitration clauses can cause legal limitations in the course of your employment.

A list of contingencies

A list of contingencies in a job offer are conditions an employer has for hiring a job candidate. Some contingencies include:

  • a background check

  • reference check

  • a valid driver's license

  • active certifications

  • labour market impact assessment (a document foreign workers have for employment in Canada)

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Accepting, negotiating, and declining a written employment offer

You can choose from three options after receiving a job offer. Whether you accept, negotiate, or decline, be sure you do so within the allotted time, typically indicated in the offer. Here are some considerations for each option:

Accepting an employment offer

You can accept an employment contract by signing it and returning it to the hiring manager or employer. Communicate your interest and gratitude as quickly as possible over the phone or email. Candidates have the following options when accepting a written work offer:

  • accept the offer immediately even though there's a lot to consider

  • ask for a few days to contemplate the offer

  • negotiates new employment terms and conditions

Read more: How to Professionally Accept a Job Offer (With Examples)

Negotiating an employment offer

Negotiate a new written offer by making a counteroffer and you may receive better employment terms. Conduct research to know your worth to ensure you get appropriate compensation or benefits. Ask for more information from the employer where necessary and be wary of the deadline for responses. Call or email the hiring manager to propose and discuss a counteroffer. Some employers may state in the written offer that the terms are non-negotiable. If the terms are non-negotiable, you can either accept or decline the job offer.

Related: How to Decline a Job Offer After Accepting

Declining an employment offer

Turn down an offer if you don't find the terms favourable and there is no possibility for further negotiations. Avoid feeling pressured to accept a job offer if it doesn't suit your interest or goals. Be polite and professional when declining a job offer to avoid damaging relationships. Some candidates may fail to respond to a written employment offer if they find the terms unfavourable, potentially damaging future relationships. Write a formal letter to decline a job offer and thank everyone for facilitating the interview process. Some of the specific reasons to turn down a job opportunity include:

  • salary and benefits are below market average

  • organizational values differ from personal values

  • work-life and personal life fail to balance

  • job doesn't further your professional and personal goals

Related: How to Make Effective Employment Counteroffers

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